Muhammad Ali Jr. Detained Again While Traveling to Tell Congress About Last Detention

Muhammad Ali Jr. Detained Again While Traveling to Tell Congress About Last Detention
via Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Twitter

Two weeks ago, Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and questioned about his religion. It was a moment outrageous enough for the son of America's greatest athlete (and most famous Muslim) that Ali Jr. testified before Congress yesterday about putting a stop to such blatant religious discrimination.

So of course, Ali Jr. says, on his way back to Fort Lauderdale today, he was detained yet again, at Reagan National Airport, by the Department of Homeland Security. This time, however, Ali Jr. hadn't even left the country.

The family's lawyer, Chris Mancini, tells New Times that Ali Jr. had been flying around the country using a valid Illinois state ID (not a driver's license), which expires in 2019. The card had worked fine all month.

Yesterday in front of a United States Senate Democratic Subcommittee, Ali Jr. testified about his February detention. And one day after publicly criticizing Donald Trump and his Muslim travel ban, Ali Jr.'s ID magically stopped working at Reagan National.

"This was directly in retaliation for what happened," Mancini says. "I don’t care what they say. Homeland Security needs to explain why, two days ago, he could fly, but all of a sudden two days later, he can't fly."

Mancini says Ali Jr. was questioned about his date of birth, social security number, and mother's name but still wasn't allowed to board the flight. Thankfully, he was carrying his U.S. passport, which earned him a trip home, the lawyer says.

Even if Ali Jr. had forgotten his passport, the TSA still would have had processes available to allow him on the flight. Travelers who forget to bring ID can simply fill out a TSA form to verify their identity.

In a twist of fate, Ali Jr. ended up on the same JetBlue flight as Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who tweeted out the news.

"On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN by @DHSgov," Wasserman Schultz tweeted. "Religiously profiling son of 'The Greatest' will not make us safe."

"Debbie said this was an outrage," Mancini says.

A Homeland Security spokesman tells New Times the agency is "looking into the reports" but didn't have further information about Ali Jr.'s detention.

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If Ali Jr.'s story is accurate, it's doubly troubling because he was traveling domestically, not internationally, as in the first case, when he was returning from Jamaica.

Yesterday Ali Jr. told Congress how that detention and the questions he faced over his religious faith felt like an assault on his liberties.

"I felt just like I felt at my father's funeral. I didn't know what to think. I was just dumbfounded," Ali Jr. told lawmakers.

"What’s so fascinating," Manicini says, "is that we go to Washington to testify before the Democratic subcommittee. We criticize the Department of Homeland Security on-record, under oath, and, lo and behold, the next day when we try to fly, all of a sudden his ID is not acceptable."

Mancini, a former federal prosecutor, says Ali Jr.'s ordeal has shaken his faith in the government.

"I never trust anything the government says," the attorney says.

Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.


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